Beaumont, Texas, who first hit the stage at thirteen years of age at a live
performance in Houston. She was
in her teens when she released her first 45, “Too Old for Toys, Too
Young for Boys” with the moniker Billie Jean Moore. (Billie Jean was her birth
She did a
stint on Louisiana Hayride and
worked the club circuit while sniffing out a record contract. A couple of people who helped launch
her career were guitarist/producer Pete Drake and singer-songwriter Jack
Rhodes. She cut some
demonstration reels with Pete but it was Jack who wrote songs for her and
recorded her in his own studio.
In 1964, she
made the big move to Music City,
U.S.A. United Artists inked a deal with her
and soon she was teamed up with Kelso Herston, a
producer. Their early efforts
went nowhere, and in 1968, the pair of them gravitated to Capitol.
release, The Voice of Billie Jo
Spears, yielded a moderate hit, “He’s Got More Love on His
Little Finger”, which managed a meager #48 on the country chart. Then she hit the top five with the
title track of Mr. Walker, It’s
All Over, a song about a much-maligned secretary who eventually hands
her boss his lunch. It was so successful, it crossed over onto the Billboard pop
chart, albeit at #80.
In 1969, she
released Miss Sincerity, which
gave birth to “Stepchild”.
It peaked at #43 and the album barely missed the top 40. She followed this up with a pair of albums,
Country Girl and With Love. With
Love produced a top 40 hit with “Daddy, I Love You” and Country Girl had one song hit the
top 20 entitled “Marty Gray”. “I Stayed Long Enough”
grazed the top 30.
She recorded a
string of singles that enjoyed varying degrees of success: “It Could Have Been Me”
was the most successful of the three, going to #23. “See the Funny Little
Clown” hit #80.
“Souvenirs and California Memories” was fairly
forgettable, peaking at #68.
She also did some remakes at Capitol such as “Harper Valley
P.T.A.” and “Ode to Billie Joe”. (Get it?) Perhaps the most creatively titled
song she ever did was “Get Behind Me Satan and Push”.
bedeviled by vocal problems, however, and had to have several polyps and
nodules surgically removed from her vocal cords. She re-emerged in 1975,
her second stint with United Artists, and it sparked her career. The title track of Blanket on the Ground became her
first and only #1 hit on the country chart and hit the top five in the
U.K. It also made a modest
showing on the U.S. pop chart at #78.
Her follow-up, simply titled Billie
Jo, produced a couple of top 20 hits in “Silver Wings and Golden
Rings” and “Stay away from the Apple Tree”. Singles from 1976’s What I’ve Got in Mind Ain’t Mine fared much better. “What I’ve Got in
Mind” went to #5 in the States and the United Kingdom. “Misty Blue” did the
In 1976, she
recorded an album of duets with Del Reeves entitled By Request. It bore
fruit with “On the Rebound” and “Teardrops Will Kiss the
Morning Dew”, which went to #29 and #42, respectively. She also found time to crank out
another solo album, I’m Not
Easy. The title track
reached #11 and “Never Did Like Whiskey” dried out at #18.
equally prolific in 1977, releasing another couple of albums, If You Want Me and Lonely Hearts Club. The title track from If You Want Me reached #8 and
“Too Much is Not Enough” enjoyed the #18 position on the
country chart. “Lonely
Hearts Club” reached the same position, and then Billie climbed the
charts slowly, reaching #17 with “I’ve Got to Go” and #16
with “57 Chevrolet”.
In 1978, the
title tune of Love Ain’t Gonna Wait for Us
reached #24 and “Yesterday” chugged along to #60. Then she did a disco turn, sort of,
covering Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, on the album
of the same name. It went to
#21, as did “Rainy Days and Stormy Nights”, and “Livin’ our Love Together reached #23.
In 1980, the
title track from Standing Tall
went as high as #15 and “Natural Attraction” cracked the Top
40. “Your Good
Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” hit #13 and was
included on the 1981 compilation, Only
the Hits. The album also
featured a cover of “What the World Needs Now is Love”, which
went to #58. “Midnight
Blue” and “Midnight Love”, a pair of singles, hit #39 and
It was the
midnight of her career in the States, however, so she set her sites on the U.K., where
she was dubbed “The Queen Mother of Country Music” by Country Music People. She spent much of her time performing
and recording in the U.K.
December 2011, she died of complications from cancer at her home in Vidor, Texas. She was 74.
legacy lives on in retrospectives such as Best of Billie Jo Spears:
Crazy, I’m So
Lonesome I Could Cry, and Ultimate
Billie Jo Spears recordings
I Will Survive (D. Fekaris/F.